Anytime a driver has the kind of season that finds him winning a fourth of the races (nine) and finishing second in the final point standings, that driver is automatically penciled in as one of the favorites to win the series title the following year.
Those were just some of the numbers that Roush Fenway Racing’s Carl Edwards put up in 2008, but unfortunately that kind of success didn’t follow him into this season.
Owner Jack Roush saw his fiveteam operation get off to a fast start, as Matt Kenseth won the first two races of the season at Daytona and California.
Unfortunately for Roush and his organization, only one more win would be added, and that came from Jamie McMurray at Talladega who was let go at the end of the season to get Roush Fenway down to the four-team maximum that goes into play in 2010.
Edwards did make the Chase along with teammate Greg Biffle, but the best they could do in the final standings was a seventh by Biffle, while Edwards failed to crack the top 10 by finishing in 11th. Matt Kenseth was the highest finishing driver of the remaining three Roush drivers as he posted a 14th place finish followed by Jamie McMurray in 22nd and David Ragan in 27th.
Those kind of finishes are definitely not Roush-like finishes, as he is one of the more successful owners in the sport and has a couple of Sprint Cup titles in his trophy case to prove it, but in this sport it is all about what have you done lately.
The problem for Roush and every other owner in the sport is that they have to face the dominating three-prong attack of Hendrick Motorsports at each stop on the schedule.
Hendrick just capped off the year by sweeping the top three spots in the final standings. Jimmie Johnson won his fourth consecutive title and was followed in by his Hendrick teammates Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon.
It was the first time in the history of the sport that one owner swept the top three spots.
Roush has the distinction of being the owner that won the last series title under the ‘classic’ point system with Kenseth in 2003 and then became the first owner to win a title under the Chase format the following year with Kurt Busch. His success continued the next season as all five of his drivers qualified for the Chase but as it turned out that year was the first year of Johnson’s record-breaking streak of four consecutive titles.
It’s hard to pinpoint just exactly where Hendrick and his operation took control of the sport. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has struggled in Hendrick equipment since signing before the 2008 season, but there is little doubt that Hendrick Chevrolets are the class of the field on most race days.
To support this idea all one has to do is look at the success of Tony Stewart’s first-year operation that was able to put both Tony and Ryan Newman into this year’s Chase. Before Stewart ever signed on to start his own operation he secured the backing of both Chevrolet and the use of equipment built by Hendrick Motorsports.
The numbers produced from this season build a strong case for Chevrolet having created an advantage for itself in the series. Hendrick’s three teams, along with Stewart’s two, were joined in the Chase by Earnhardt-Ganassi’s Juan Pablo Montoya in a Chevrolet which brought the number of Chevy drivers in the Chase to six. That’s half of the field with Toyota, Dodge and Ford each putting two cars in the 12-car field.
NASCAR President Mike Helton just recently announced that he didn’t see any changes being made to the car before next season, which may be bad news for every driver not sitting behind the wheel of a Chevy.
No help from NASCAR along with the strict no-testing policy at tracks that hold NASCAR events, puts the pressure on narrowing the gap between Chevy and the rest of the field in the hands of the crew chiefs and engineers at the shop.
It will not be easy as work, for Daytona started at Hendrick’s over three months ago!